Andhra Government should be cautious in selecting new capital

Chandra Babu Naidu says: “I will make the new capital of Andhra a “Singapore”. I will make Andhra Pradesh better than Singapore, Switzerland and America. Instead of saying such things, Chandra Babu should try to get immigration visas for the entire Andhra Pradesh to migrate to Singapore, Switzerland and USA. That would be more realistic.

Pullarao Pentapati
There is a great haste to select a new capital for Andhra Pradesh. TDP government already made its intention clear on having a capital in Guntur. From day one, by setting up a camp office and getting sworn in as Chief Minister in Guntur, Chandra Babu sent a clear message. The idea was to see how people would react. It was like a multi-national company market-testing a new toothpaste . A very clever campaign has been launched to make the people accept Guntur as new capital, whether they like it nor not. The idea is to make it inevitable.

Aside from market psychology being used by Naidu and advisers, the people of Andhra think there is “Real Estate” logic behind the idea of Guntur as Capital. Even light-weight Jairam Ramesh, former Minister accused his own Congress leaders of buying land for speculative reasons in Guntur. Media has reported that land prices have gone up 50 times since they expect Capital to be in Guntur.

We have 3 new states which were formed in 2000 and each had taken different approach when selecting a Capital. chhattisgarh selected Raipur simply because it was the largest city in Chhattisgarh. Ranchi was similarly the largest city in Jharkhand. But in Uttaranchal, there were problems within the new state as Kumaon and Garhwal were like Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema with different histories and rivalries. Both wanted the Capital. They settled on an empty space called Gairsain, which was geographical middle of the two regions. But for convenience, Dehra Dun was selected as temporary capital of Uttaranchal since it was the biggest city and had an airport and railway station.

To satisfy Kumaon region, government in Uttaranchal located High court in  Naini Tal. The tussle for the capital is going even after 15 years after the state was formed. There are agitations and strikes. To reduce  tensions,  State Government recently located State assembly and other buildings in Gairsain. So Uttaranchal has Secretariat in Dehra Dun, Court in Naini Tal and State Legislature in Gairsain . Remember, Uttaranchal is a very small state as compared to Andhra Pradesh. When a small state can have 3 capital cities, why not Andhra Pradesh ?

Kashmir has two capitals. In winter, it is Jammu and in summer, it is Srinagar. This takes care of different demands of the regions of Kashmir. In Uttar Pradesh, the Capital is Lucknow and High Court is at Allahabad, which is also the center of education in Uttar Pradesh. In effect, there are two major centers in Uttar Pradesh. In Maharashtra, while Bombay is the capital, Nagpur has Legislature sessions every year.

The reason that Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand did not have such troubles is that they straightaway selected largest cities. In Uttaranchal, just like Andhra Pradesh, there are deep divisions of caste and region. The proposed selection of Guntur  will let loose caste feelings. The talk is already there that Guntur is being selected for narrow reasons and this will be a very big stigma for Telugu Desam government. History tells us  that a bad capital will cause serious problems.

In 1571, the great Mughal Emperor Akbar selected Fatehpur Sikri, which is 30 miles from Agra, as his Capital. After 20 years, Akbar abandoned his capital. But he wasted 20 years of time by making a poor selection of Fatehur Sikri and the most powerful Emperor of India had to admit his mistake. A modern day Chief Minister in India is nothing compared to a powerful Mughal emperor. Yet, Akbar bowed to demands from his people who felt Fatehpur Sikri was a bad choice. A huge city was abandoned.

One of the  world’s most despised government is Burmese government. For thousands of years, Burma had either Mandalay or Rangoon as its capital. But military government of Burma, suddenly decided to shift the capital to a place 9 hours  from Rangoon called NAYPYIDAW. With money from sales of oil, gas, minerals,timber and having absolute dictatorship for last 65  years, the rulers built a huge city. The highways linking Naypyidaw to other cities are 16 lanes. Everything is there except people. Government servants were forced to shift to the new city. But people did not follow them. Burmese government offered free land and buildings to all Embassies. But not a single country moved to the new capital. Sooner or later, it is expected that the new capital will be abandoned. Burma is a laughing stock of the world for its new capital.

a. There need be  no rush to select a capital in Andhra . Constitutionally, there is a minimum period of 10 years with Hyderabad as capital. Parliament can extend this period indefinitely.The future is un-predictable. There is every chance that the people of Telengana and Andhra will live harmoniously, even though politicians are trying to continue hatreds. There is absolutely no rush to vacate Hyderabad.

b. The selection of a capital in Andhra Pradesh will create controversies since various castes and regions have ambitions of their own. The selection of Guntur will satisfy only one caste. By selecting Guntur, it means that Rayalseema and North Andhra will be dominated forever. There are different social castes there and the new government must keep that in mind. Minor castes, though dominant, cannot dominate the state.

c. Developing only Guntur as the Capital means that as in Hyderabad, only one city will be developed. It is necessary to spread out development and avoid social tensions again. The caste tensions are very alive in Andhra and TDP government should avoid stoking such fires.  Winning an election does not mean giving a Vakalat to take unilateral decisions. Selecting Guntur as capital is a Unilateral  decision. If we go for one capital, it means anger all across Andhra Pradesh.

d. A logical decision of State government would be to select the most well-developed place and that would be Visakhapatnam. No well qualified IAS or IPS officer will come to work in a jungle.  80% of the IAS and IPS officers wanted to stay in Telengana simply because they wanted to stay in Hyderabad. If the capital is some un=-developed backwater, Andhra Pradesh will become the last choice for civil servants and other experts. The last rankers in the civil service will come to Andhra Pradesh.

e. Rayalseema also has a demand. They want Kurnool as the capital. In the new state, we should have one Rayalseema town as a capital.

Capital can be fluid and multi-city:

a. There must be at least 3 cities which have major activity of government. Visakhapatnam, Guntur and Kurnool can definitely have equal share of government and infra-structure.  Anything less would create conditions for future conflict within the state. Any attempt to impose a capital through tricks will create a backlash against the state government.

b. Visakhapatnam has 20,000 acres of surplus land in the Visakhapatnam Steel plant.  The Steel Plant has a total of 23000 acres of land. The central government is duty bound to return to Andhra Pradesh at least 15,000 acres of land which can take care of any sized-capital. There is no need to acquire even one acre of land. Visakhapatnam has an international profile, an airport and port and is on the national highways and rail line. There is a huge cosmopolitan population who have come to work in the Navy, private industry and public sector units. It is a worthy place for a court and secretariat. The weather is good. There is no shortage of  water. Visakhapatnam cannot also be ignored since it represents the entire north Andhra from West Godaveri to  Srikalaulam. It also the center of tribal population in the State .

Madras in Tamilnadu, Bombay in Maharashtra, Tiruvanthapuram in Kerala are all State capitals and like Visakhapatnam they are at one end of the State. If they can all be capitals, why not Visakhapatnam?

c. Guntur can definitely be the center of the state assembly. But to select Guntur as state Capital will be un-acceptable  and will create tensions. To manipulate people and situations to select Guntur will ensure that Chandra Babu will be viewed with suspicion by many communities.

People are watching very intensely the actions of the government in making Guntur the capital. It will only ensure that about 2 lakh people will become crorepathis in Guntur and Krishna Districts. That seems to be the objective  and also to capture the capital for generations to come. Chandra Babu should step back. His advisers might be very good businessmen. But they have no touch with people from other communities. There will be a backlash. chandra Babu must not forget how new parties are all the time coming up in Andhra Pradesh.

The attempt to hijack the future wealth of the state will have dire consequences.

When Chandra Babu was Chief Minister between 1999-2004, I wrote an article against the proposal to build a Formula 1 car racing track in Medak .Thousands of acres  of land from farmers had  to be acquired. My article stated that the race track will be used once every 3 years for 2 days and then forgotten. The  then leader of Opposition Dr. YSR spoke to me and asked whether my facts were right. YSR then raised the issue in the assembly and Chandra Babu dropped the idea. Chandra Babu behaved like a Statesmen then.

At this stage, Chandra Babu should step back from selecting Guntur as Capital. He should show statesmanship.

It is open knowledge that in the last 7 years, real estate speculators have cornered lakhs of acres in Guntur – Krishna area. Let there be a Judicial enquiry on who bought land. That will be a  shocking story and India will learn how some  people want to become billionaires when Telugu people were fighting for survival. It is the mother of all scams.

There is no rule in the world  which says that a state cannot have more than one capital. The Central government did not properly think of the consequences of the Division. Everything was done in a week. Neither Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi or other political parties exercised their minds.

Even India and Pakistan had a better deal after division since there was a Mahatma Gandhi to intervene for justice. In 1947, after division, India refused to release money due to Pakistan. But Mahatma Gandhi went on a hunger strike and forced Nehru to release funds to Pakistan.

Chandra Babu should avoid his business advisers and consider the future challenges to him and the State if he adopts a partial attitude to Guntur.

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